June 19, 2020
By Heather Curry
This week, the Mississippi legislature approved the Military Family Freedom Act, an essential reform that will break down barriers to work for service members and their families. Once signed into law, this bill will allow military members and their families to obtain occupational licenses in Mississippi based on the education and training they have already completed out-of-state. The Goldwater Institute has long championed this approach, both for military families and other skilled professionals, and was happy to engage in Mississippi on behalf of this reform.
“Mississippi is now a destination state for military families, and we have our strong legislative champions to thank for that,” said Dr. Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. “We are proud to have worked with the U.S. Department of Defense in helping pass one of the best military licensing bills in the country. Our sponsor, Senator Chuck Younger, worked for years on this bill, and Senate Military Affairs Chairman Mike Seymour expertly guided it through the process. Our House champions Chairman Bubba Carpenter and Vice Chairman Steve Hopkins simply refused to give up when the bill hit some headwinds. This has truly been a team effort, and it shows how much we can accomplish when we work together.”
Senate Bill 2117 recognizes that military families are particularly vulnerable to the effects of onerous licensing, with spouses required to relicense as frequently as they are required to move. Unfortunately, licensing regulations can vary significantly from state to state; in many cases, the process to relicense in a new state is so costly and time-intensive that it disrupts careers permanently. By honoring the time, effort, and money already invested in an out-of-state license, this reform particularly empowers military spouses to pursue their own version of the American Dream even as they support the important work of America’s service members. So long as an applicant has held a license in good standing for at least one year and was required to complete testing or training requirements in the initiating state, they are eligible to receive a license. Boards no longer need to devote unnecessary time to comparing education or training requirements across all 50 states, and applicants are no longer required to jump through hoops just to continue a career they were already doing safely and productively elsewhere. Once signed into law, this bill will remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles from the paths of military families who have already sacrificed so much in service of their country.
In addition to recognizing out-of-state licenses, Mississippi’s bill also creates a pathway to licensure for professionals with work experience. Under the new law, if a person has worked for at least three years at a similar practice level and comes from a state that did not license that particular occupation, he or she is eligible to receive a license in without having to take on additional education or training.
Additionally, this reform recognizes the qualifications and experience completed by service members during the course of their military training. SB 2117 requires the provision of a temporary license in any situation where an application will take longer than two weeks to process. As some boards may meet only quarterly to consider new applications, this provision will allow workers to get back to work while they await an official response. Taken together, these provisions, as well as a built-process by which applicants can appeal a decision, help Mississippi’s bill set a new standard for military recognition.
Mississippi is not alone in pursuing this important reform. When Arizona became the first state in the nation to pass universal recognition, it set a new standard for licensure reform long advocated for by the Goldwater Institute. Arizona’s universal recognition law may be less than a year old, but early data shows that it is already having a tremendous effect. Since universal recognition went into effect in Arizona in September of 2019, over 1100 individuals have applied for and been granted a license to work in fields ranging from cosmetology to engineering.
This session, more than 20 states introduced legislation to extend universal recognition to skilled professionals. Following Arizona’s lead, Montana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri have passed their own universal recognition laws. Other states, like Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana have passed versions that benefit military families, recognizing, as Mississippi does, that military families are disproportionately impacted by costly and time-consuming regulation. At a time when so many Americans are out of work, policymakers should act swiftly to remove the unnecessary hurdles that stand between workers and their right to earn a living. Universal recognition, along with other Goldwater reforms like the Home-Based Business Fairness Act, should be at the top of every state’s economic recovery agenda.
The Goldwater Institute applauds the Mississippi legislature for advancing such a timely and important reform and thanks Governor Tate Reeves for his leadership on this issue. Additionally, we are grateful for the groups on the ground that advocated tirelessly on behalf of Mississippi’s military families and look forward to working together to extend the benefits of universal recognition to all skilled professionals in Mississippi.
Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.